A Love Letter To “Hocus Pocus”

University News
Cult Classic Review: ”˜Hocus Pocus’ remains a Halloween Classic
By C Manian
October 22nd, 2012

Not all Halloween movies are classified in the horror genre. Disney’s 1993 magical comedy “Hocus Pocus” is one of the best Halloween comedic cult classics of our generation. Director Kenny Ortega delivers a fun-filled Halloween film with the brilliant talents of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters.

The popular film tells the story of three witches, Winifred (Midler), Mary (Najimy) and Sarah (Parker) Sanderson, who were hanged in 17th century Salem for witchcraft. Before their deaths, they cast a curse which allows them to return on Halloween when a virgin lights the “black-flame candle.” This is exactly what happens 300 years later when Max Dennison, who recently moved to Salem, attempts to impress his crush, Allison.

Now resurrected, the three sisters must suck the life out of a child before sunrise or they will “cease to exist.” This becomes quite the challenge since Thackery Binx, who was turned into an immortal cat to live with his guilt of losing his younger sister Emily to the sisters’ quest for youth, helps Max to ensure the witches’ demise. Max steals their spell book and follows the cat, Binx, to hide from the sisters until sunrise.

Much of the humor in the movie stems from the Sandersons’ encounters with the technology of the 20th century. Everything from a lighter to a bus is novel and frightening to the sisters. In search of Max and their spell book, they misunderstand the concept of costumes. They find a man dressed as Satan and go to him for help, calling him “Master.”

Once they understand the evolved nature of Halloween, they go a party held for the parents of the community. To reveal that the sisters have come back from the dead, Max unknowingly introduces the sisters for a spontaneous musical number. Perhaps the most memorable scene, the sisters perform “I Put a Spell on You,” which curses the parents to dance until they die.

Max, his little sister Dani, Allison and Binx burn the witches in an industrial oven at their school in an attempt to kill them. When the protagonists believe the sisters are dead, the witches kidnap Dani and take back their book. When the potion is brewed and ready to drink, they are fooled once more by technology when Max uses his headlights to simulate the sunrise. He dumps the potion and escapes with Dani and Allison into the cemetery, since the witches cannot stand on hallowed ground.

The movie ends with a struggle between the sisters on their brooms and the mortals on the ground. Max drinks the last of the potion to save his sister, but the Sanderson sisters run out of time and evaporate into dust.

While the Sanderson sisters may have died in the movie, the legacy and love for “Hocus Pocus” lives on.

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